1st Condition for Developing Great Ability: Early Start
This is the 1st section of a 5-part series outlining Shinichi Suzuki’s “Conditions for Developing Great Ability” from Chapter 2 of his book Ability Development from Age Zero. If you would like to listen to the intro, you can hear it here.
The first condition is to begin as early as possible — Dr. Suzuki makes it abundantly clear that he views the learning of music the exact same way he views the learning of a child’s first language. Suzuki asks his audience, “Can you conceive of thinking, ‘It is best to teach my child how to speak when he is five years old. Therefore he should not hear anyone speak until then.’ Nonsense! If a person actually did that to a child, it would be far too late for learning the language. I do not think that anyone will ever find any bad effects from teaching a child his language at such an early age that he speaks fluently by the time he is five. The problem arises when the child is ignored during these important years.”
In this same vein, it is also not unheard of for many expectant mothers to intentionally expose their unborn children to music in utero. While the studies that have been done in this area are loosely controlled and have yet to be repeated with larger sampling pools, there do seem to be results that support mothers’ efforts to give their children the earliest exposure to music possible. As Dr. Suzuki says, “The earlier talent development is begun, the better.” “…Birth is the best time to start.”
In my studio, I witness early starts all the time with the siblings of students. It is amazing to see what even infants are capable of when they have been carted around from private lessons to group class to home practice, absorbing everything big brother or sister is doing with Mommy or Daddy and Teacher. When their turn comes to take lessons, the abilities we strive to develop tend to come more readily because that second (or third or fourth, etc.) child has had exposure to the desired ability at home, as well as the incentive of positive encouragement provided by parent and teacher.
In essence, the reason it is so important to begin with an early start is so we can offer our children as much ability and skill development in the phase where they learn simply because that’s their natural state of being. This is most easily done in early childhood.
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